Virginia thought that it would be a good idea to spend our last two days in Manila in a nicer hotel. She paid for two nights at the Palm Plaza, which set us up with a huge bed, cable TV, a shower with hot water, and laundry services. We spent our time wandering around the enormous malls, handicraft shopping, and trying the restaurants.
Within Manila, there are probably about 20 to 30 malls, all larger than the ones we get back in the states. The Araneta Center (one of the many malls) is comprised of over 2000 specialty stories, not to mention restaurants and 28 movie theaters. We spent a lot of time getting lost, and walking in circles. Probably exactly what the malls want you to do. We had also been looking to try a McDonald's to see how it compared to those back at home. A supersize big mac meal (115 pesos = about $2.50) was the first real hamburger we had found. The fries and sandwich tasted exactly the same as one you'd get back in the states. Good old McDonald's. Philipinos have generally taken the term hamburger to mean a bagel type bun with mayonnaise, ketchup, and a thin slice of ham. Literally a "ham-burger" They're not bad, but sometimes you just want a greasy burger that's actually made of beef. Oh, and McDonald's also serves fried chicken and rice, along with every other restaurant in the country. The fanciest places, along with every fast food joint all serve it. And everyone eats it. Fried chicken is huge here, and somehow, when they make it, it's not greasy. Still not the best thing to be eating all the time, but it's definitely better than the US version.
Our souvenir shopping didn't go as well as we'd hoped. Virginia wanted to get a hammock or two for her brother and sister. I picked one up (for under $5) in Legaspi, and we were sure we'd be able to find some in Manila. We were wrong. Sorry Virginia's brother and sister. You'll just have to look at pictures of me using mine. Virginia managed to find some other stuff that was pretty cool, and we figured it was good enough. Neither one of us are very good shoppers, and a few hours was more than enough for us.
We also went to see Ocean's 13 one evening. Tickets are only 150 pesos (around $3.50), and you can get popcorn and a drink for under a dollar. I wasn't too impressed with the movie, but was amazed at how many people showed up considering that no one seems to really understand English. There were quite a few jokes that should have had people laughing, but Virginia was the only one who I heard make any noise. I still wonder about the language thing here. Any official announcement or sign is in English.The ATM's, airport signs, restaurant menus, and various other important things are all in English. A couple of days ago, Virginia and I watched as a group of about 10 to 15 people tried to figure out what the ATM machine was trying to tell them. A security guard had to be posted next to the machine to help people navigate through the menus. I guess I'll never understand.
Before leaving Manila, I also wanted to get a few pictures of some jeepneys, as they are quite the sight around town. I've done some reading, and apparently the first jeepneys were old US army jeeps left behind after WW2. The Philipinos shined them up and stared decorating them, and now they're produced locally here in the Philippines. The majority of them are adorned with religious sayings and scenes."Jesus is Love" "God makes the world beautiful" "Say no to drugs. Say yes to Jesus." "Be Honest" and similar phrases are written all over the place. I'm not really the religious type, but it seems that there are better ways to celebrate God than to dress up your cars, but that's just me. Maybe God's into that kind of thing, I dunno.
Ok. Enough about Manila. I'm waiting around for a while until I can get to the airport and check into my flight to Bangkok. The Philippines have been great. It's a beautiful country, with beautiful and friendly people. The fact that tourism hasn't really caught on here yet has made my time here a bit different than I expected, but it was a nice surprise. I think Thailand will be a good compliment to the Philippines. It's far more touristy (probably a little too much), but getting around will be easier, more reliable, and more comfortable. I'll also have the opportunity to meet up with some other travelers, which can be good and bad I suppose. In any case, it's a bit sad to leave, but I'm also excited to continue on to new things. If all goes well, my next entry will be from somewhere in Thailand.